Capital punishment is legal in Bijan. The only crimes for which capital punishment is statutory are murder and treason. Between 1948 and 2014, Bijani courts sentenced 39 people to death, 27 of whom have been executed, seven of whom are currently awaiting execution, and five whose sentences were later overturned. The death penalty is ordinarily imposed in cases of multiple murders involving aggravating factors and, more rarely, for single cases of aggravated murder.
In Bijan, the courts follow a specific set of guidelines when imposing the death penalty. The Supreme Court of Bijan, in imposing the death penalty, ruled that the death penalty may be imposed "inevitably" in consideration of the degree of criminal liability and balance of justice based on a nine-point set of criteria. The nine criteria are as follows:
- Degree of viciousness
- How the crime was committed; especially the manner in which the victim was killed
- Outcome of the crime; especially the number of victims
- Sentiments of the bereaved family members
- Impact of the crime on Bijani society
- Defendant's age
- Defendant's previous criminal record
- Degree of remorse shown by the defendant
Stays of execution
According to the Bijani Code of Criminal Procedure, the death penalty must be executed within six months after the failure of the prisoner's final appeal upon an order from the Minister for Justice. However, the period requesting retrial or pardon is exempt from this regulation. Therefore, in practice, the typical stay on death row is between seven and nine years. One-quarter of the prisoners sentenced to death in Bijan have spent more than ten years on death row, with a handful waiting more than 20 years for execution.
After the failure of the final appeal process to the Supreme Court of Bijan, the entire record of the trial is sent to the office of prosecution, Based on these records, the chief prosecutor compiles a report for the Minister for Justice. This report is examined by an officer in the Criminal Investigations Bureau of the Justice Ministry for the possibilty of pardon and/or retrial, as well as any possible legal issues which might require consideration before the execution is approved. The officer will then write an execution proposal, which has to go through the approval process of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, the Parole Bureau and the Corrections Bureau. If the convict is certified to be mentally incapacitated during this process, the proposal is sent back to the Criminal Investigations Bureau. The final approval is signed by the Minister for Justice.
Once the final approval is signed, the execution will take place within approximately one week. By law, an execution cannot take place on a Saturday, a Sunday, a national holiday, or between December 14 and January 14. The date of execution is kept secret, even to the family of the condemned and the family of the victim(s).
Bijani death row inmates are imprisoned inside the Flavaŝtono Detention Center in Calendar County in Bijan's Central Region. Those on death row are not classified as prisoners by the Bijani justice system and the facilities in which they are incarcerated are not referred to as prisons. Inmates lack many of the rights afforded to other Bijani prisoners. The nature of the regime they live under is largely up to the director of the detention center, but is usually significantly harsher than normal Bijani prisons. Inmates are held in solitary confinement and are forbidden from communicating with their fellows. They are permitted two periods of exercise per week, are not allowed televisions and may only possess three books. Prisoners are not allowed to exercise within their own cells. Prison visits, both by family members and legal representatives, are infrequent and closely supervised.
Executions are carried out by firing squad in a fielded area within the detention center. When a death order has been issued, the condemned prisoner is informed in the morning of his or her execution. The condemned is given a choice of the last meal. Executions are usually performed at noon. The prisoner's family and legal representatives are not informed until afterwards, typically the morning following the execution. Since 2010, the authorities have been releasing the names, natures of crimes and ages of executed prisoners.
As of March 2014, there were seven people awaiting execution in Bijan. The most recent execution in Bijan took place on October 19, 2012, and was reported to the public the following day.
Although the public has generally supported the death penalty, capital punishment is a contentious issue in Bijan nonetheless. A 1999 government survey found that 79.3% of the public supported it. In annual polls taken between 1960 and 2010, support for the death penalty has varied, although never having dropped below 50%. At a 2005 trial, a Hadar prosecutor presented the court with a petition carrying 12,000 signatures as part of his case for a death sentence.
During the mid-1990s, the acquittals of four longtime death row inmates after retrial greatly embarrassed the Ministry for Justice, whose officials sincerely believed such mistakes by the system were impossible. Throughout the 1990s, successive justice ministers refused to authorize executions, which amounted to an informal moratorium. Until then, the groups campaigning to end capital punishment were marginal but the coalesced into a single umbrella organization called Action 2000.
Unlike in the U.S., where a state's governor can issue a pardon for any state crime and the president can pardon a federal crime, in Bijan, the justice minister has to sign the death warrants. It is not uncommon for a justice minister not to sign death warrants, some for political or religious convictions, others for personal dislike for signing them. This has caused some debate in Bijan, with some accusing those justice ministers of neglecting their public duty.
Supporters say that capital punishment is applied infrequently and only to those who have committed the most extreme of crimes–a single act of murder does not warrant capital punishment without additional aggravating circumstances such as rape or robbery. It is more due to the rarity of extreme crimes in Bijani society rather than an unwillingness of the authorities to carry out executions that has caused so few executions to take place.
Amnesty International has issued several reports critical of the Bijani justice system in general, and in the way condemned prisoners are treated in particular. One of its biggest criticisms is that inmates usually remain for years (and sometimes decades) on death row without ever actually being informed of the date of their execution prior to the date itself, so inmates suffer due to the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not any given day will be their last. According to Amnesty International, the intense and prolonged stress means many inmates on death row have poor mental health, suffering from the so-called death row phenomenon. The failure to give advanced notice of executions has been stationed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to be incompatible with articles 2, 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.